"Do not say a little in many words but a great deal in a few."
When I'm first laying down a draft, I ignore sentence structure and punctuation. So when I jump back into revisions, I've got my work cut out for me. And one thing I really zero in on is my verb usage.
I attempt to rid the manuscript of as many "to be" verbs as I can (which translates to was and were for me in past tense) and highlight where my weak verbs are anchored by adverbs.
The idea is to use strong verbs, which chops down word count, makes me concise, and strengthens my sentences.
Here are some examples of weak verb/adverbs pairs that can be replaced by stronger verbs:
slowly pull: drag or lug
gently touch: graze or brush
strongly place: jut, slam or jab
hold tight: grasp or clutch
run silently: dart or dash
step quickly: sprint or dash
voice growing rough: husky or gruff
grabs gently: tugs or pulls (not as strong as yanks)
turn around slowly: twist, coil, twirl
furiously shakes: tremble, shudder, quake
quickly looks up: head snaps up
walk slowly: inch or labor
slowly lift: tug, tow, or heave
step quietly: tiptoe, sneak, or creep
You get the idea.
Do you ever fall into this weak construction trap? Or are there others--aren't there always others? :-)
I fall into these traps during my first drafts, too, haha. I figure that's okay as long as I fix it in the revisions. Phew, good thing writing is a profession in which the first time doesn't have to be perfect. I like it that we get second (and third, fourth, fifth...) chances!
I did. I'm hopefully getting better at it. :)
I often go too far with this. You do want colorful, active verbs in place of weak construction almost whenever possible, but you don't want to get too metaphorical, either.
I do love that run silently becomes dart, thought. That's just awesome.
Matt, I hear you! I predict you’ll use the word dart somewhere—LOL!!!
Love that quote - long-winded copy drives me bananas.
I do the same. Get the story down and fix later. And I'm now revising for the bajillionth time!
Fantastic post! I can definitely admit to falling into the trap, but if something can be said in one word, it is often best to just use the one word.
I too try to avoid the use of "to be" including as a helping verb. But when I got the line edits back on my most recent manuscript, I was surprised by how many "to be's" the editor put back in.
For example: changing "stood" to "was standing." I realized I had to be careful about precise verb tense. Using simple past tense just to get rid of the helping verb made some sentences grammatically inaccurate.
Now I try to be more precise, although occasionally the difference between the two goes right over my head.
Uhhh, I just spent a week reviewing every -"ing" ending in my latest manuscript. There were so many, it's embarrassing.
Interesting Dianne, but makes sense too--doesn't apply to everything!
Great list, Christina. Thanks so much for sharing it! I always love to find unexpected verbs. I find that when I come across that in a book, that is inevitably the passage that I end up remembering the most.
This is actually very helpful! I definitely can use this knowledge in my own blog post writing. Less is more in this case!
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